D-DAY 80th Anniversary

‘People of Western Europe. A landing was made this morning on the coast of France…’ Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower Allied Supreme Commander OVERLORD, evening of June 6, 1944 AN OPPOSED LANDING is one of the most hazardous military operations. Ike’s laconic words hid the complexities, agonising decisions, years of planning and deception that lay behind the invasion, the ‘longest day’ as Rommel called it. On D-Day 150,000 men were carried by some 7000 ships to liberate France and Europe from Read More

Vandal or genius

‘A wall is a very big weapon. It is one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.’ BANKSY is an agitator, and the wall is perfect for his message. Unavoidable, and literally in your face. He is a self-made enigma. His anonymity is a weapon. It protects him from prosecution for criminal damage for ‘defacing’ walls. And from being pestered. He is a contradiction, an anti-establishment artist who despises the art world, yet who uses it when convenient. ‘Art Read More

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt: American Impressionist ‘I took leave of conventional art. I began to live.’ So said Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) about her invitation in 1877 to join the Impressionists, the ‘true masters’. She overcame several obstacles to become an artist in Paris (‘the capital of the nineteenth century’) where she settled in 1874. She was a woman, daughter of a stockbroker; and foreign. She was born in Pennsylvania. Her parents were rather grand. Society girls did not paint, and most decidedly Read More

Toulouse Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) was an artist at ease with the demi-monde he frequented: the world of the night, of prostitutes, absinthe drinkers and can-can dancers. Eventually it would kill him. He died of syphilis and alcoholism. ‘His paintings were almost entirely painted in absinthe,’ remarked his contemporary Gustav Moreau. But he was not at ease with himself. He was mocked for his height. He was a mere four feet, eight inches (through a genetic condition – the result of Read More

Frans Hals

‘Frans Hals is a colourist among the colourists, a colourist like Veronese, like Rubens, like Delacroix, like Velázquez… But – tell me – black and white, may one use them or not? Are they forbidden fruit? I think not. Frans Hals must have had twenty-seven blacks.’  [Van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, 1885] Pure Impressionism shunned black. Van Gogh did not. Black is not uniform. Stand before a portrait by FRANS HALS (1582–1666) of a finely dressed gent and Read More


MARK ROTHKO: A deceptive stillness ‘I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom…. there is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.’ MARK ROTHKO (born Marcus Rothkovitch in Latvia, 1903) brought something new to the post-war Abstract Expressionist school – emotion. He spent a lifetime exploring the limitless possibilities of layering expressive coloured rectangles onto fields of compatible colour (the result became known as Colour Field Painting). He took up painting in New York Read More


‘To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is, without creating still more of them.’  Pierre-Auguste Renoir To enjoy RENOIR you don’t need to know about the science or artifice behind those dappled scenes of bathers or revellers. They were painted for his pleasure, and yours. Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) is the essence of Renoir. It combines figures – portraits of his Read More


‘Mondrian realizes the importance of line. The line has almost become a work of art in itself… Each superfluous line, each wrongly placed line, any colour placed without veneration or care, can spoil everything – that is, the spiritual.’ Theo van Doesburg (1915) The art of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is precise, austere even. ‘Curves are so emotional,’ he said. He wanted ‘nothing specific, nothing human’ in his art. The compositions of his mature period use only black, white and primary Read More


The Belle Époque in France was the exotic epoch between the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and the Great War of 1914. It witnessed a cultural explosion – Impressionism, Zola, the Ballets Russes, the Eiffel Tower, the Paris métro, the Paris Opéra and the Moulin Rouge. It was here that Toulouse-Lautrec, all four foot of him, drank absinthe (hidden in his cane), talked and loved and sketched the demi-monde – that eclectic classless mix of pimps and pansies, artists and aristos. Read More

Paul Klee

There is no ‘school’ of Klee, he is unique. His art should ‘be read like poems, or listened to like pieces of music’ wrote the critic Georg Schmidt. They can be appreciated for their sound, and for their pure visual appeal; but also for the theory that lies behind. They are based on a ‘perfectly definite melody of colour’ and form. Klee loved Bach and Mozart, and his art mirrored the fusion of these two masters, the fusion of ‘art Read More